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Earth-23 Superman

DC Multiverse
by yo go re

Remember in the Barry Allen review where I complained about the lack of any useful biographical information on the packaging, in lieu of generic corporate-speak? I was wrong. There is some information on the packaging: it's just on the side panel, rather than the back, and it doesn't really tell us anything useful. So instead, let's turn to this character's first appearance in Action Comics #9:

And so after a time came the last son of lost Krypton - to the planet Earth! Adopted by a poor but kindly couple, the seed of Krypton took root in fertile alien soil, and grew tall and strong and proud. Now, disguised as United States President Calvin Ellis, Kalel of Krypton fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, liberty and equality as... SUPERMAN!

The Superman of Earth-23 hails from Vathlo, the literal island where Krypton kept all its black people. That is not a joke - DC Comics not once but twice explained its stories' lack of diversity by segregating all the black people to their own island (Vathlo in Superman, and Marzal in Legion of Superheroes). Let idiots on Reddit upvote each other's complaints about "forced diversity," it beats waking up a few decades later and realizing you've endemically excluded an actual group of humans, then having to invent an excuse for where they've been this whole time.

Kalel is not the first black Superman: before him, there was the Superman of Earth-D in Crisis on Infinite Earths, and Sunshine Superman (created from the mind of Psycho-Pirate). This is the only one to ever get a story beyond "black Superman," though. As you may be able to guess from the fact that Calvin Ellis was the president, writer Grant Morrison based him on Barack Obama - but also on Muhammad Ali. You can definitely see the resemblance in the face (though they could perhaps have given him a big smile).

Surprisingly little of Superman's body is reused. You might assume that he's a repaint of Mattel's "New 52" Superman - I certainly did. But get in there and really examine the pieces, and you'll find few overlaps. What's shared? The feet, thighs, hips, stomach, biceps and shoulders. Not a lot, and not anything of importance. The shins are new because Superman's boots are a unique style, and the same goes for the forearms because of his gloves. New 52 Superman had similar triangular elements on the back of his hands, but they aligned differently, and only had one sculpted line, not two. The belt here has the same sort of buckle, but the edge is thicker and the belt itself is wider and simpler. His torso is definitely his own, because the S shield isn't a raised element, and the collar dips down farther in front of the throat (though for some reason, there's a sculpted line across the top, rather than a smooth transition). We always give Mattel crap when they take the easy way out, so we're definitely going to give them praise now that they're doing more than expected. It's not a perfect re-creation of his comic costume, but it's better than it might have been.

The colors are very nice. Unlike our Superman, whose secondary color is red, Kalel really ups the amount of yellow in his suit. The main suit is still blue - a bright, friendly shade - but the colors of his S are reversed from the one we know, and his belt, boots and wrist-things (they're not quite gloves, since they don't cover his hands, so... bracelets?) are black and yellow. His cape doesn't attach over his shoulders like the real Superman's does; rather, it's a curved sheet that just seems to hover behind him (a feat the toy can duplicate thanks to the large plug that holds it in place like every other DCUC figure). It's a rusty red with a black border, but it's missing the black-on-yellow S that should be in the center.

His articulation is exactly what you expect: balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, hinged torso, swivel waist, swivel/hinge hips, mid-thigh swivels, hinged knees and hinged ankles. Mattel hasn't made a genuine effort to improve their articulation in at least a decade, so yet again we have a flying character who can't look up or down.

Superman doesn't have any accessories, because he's Superman. But he does come with a piece of this series' BAF, Batman's Justice Buster armor. His is the left leg, which is big and chunky and moves at the knee and hip - no ankle. Fortunately, in at least two of his appearances, Earth-23 Superman has been seen beating up on big stupid robots, so this could easily be something he ripped off of one of them.

Superman of Earth-23 is a minor character at best, so it's surprising that he got an action figure at all, let alone that Mattel would put so much new work into his creation.

-- 06/01/16

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